Juvenile Court Lacked Jurisdiction to End Parental Rights and Order Adoption

The juvenile court terminated a mother’s parental rights, and ordered that her minor child be adopted by another couple. The court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction to do either thing. The Court of Civil Appeals dismissed the mother’s appeal regarding her parental rights; and it ordered the juvenile court to vacate both orders. R.L. v. J.E.R., No. 2100050 (Ala. Civ. App. Mar. 25, 2011).

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Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction May Be Raised for First Time On Appeal

On January 14, 2011, the Alabama Supreme Court vacated a $3.2 million wrongful death medical malpractice jury award and dismissed the appeal from the award because the Court found that the defendant had State immunity.  Consequently, both the trial court and the Alabama Supreme Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the case.  It did not matter that the defendant did not challenge jurisdiction in the trial court because a party cannot waive a challenge to subject matter jurisdiction.  Health Care Authority for Baptist Health v. Davis, No. 1090084 (Ala. Jan, 14, 2011). 

Order Granting or Denying Motion to Compel Arbitration Appealable As a Final Judgment; Rule 54(b) Certifications Reviewed for Abuse of Discretion

Lightning Fair, Inc. v. Rosenberg makes clear that an order granting or denying a motion to compel arbitration is appealed in the same way as any other final order.  In addition, it states the standard by which the Alabama Supreme Court reviews a trial court’s Rule 54(b) certification. 

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Non-Final Judgments Will Not Support Appeal

The well-settled rule that a non-final judgment will not support an appeal resulted in two appeals being dismissed by the Court of Civil Appeals.  In both Faulk v. Rhodes, [Ms. 2081005] (Ala. Civ. App. Feb 3, 2010), and Sexton v. Sexton, [Ms. 2080852] (Ala. Civ. App. Feb. 5, 2010), the Court of Civil Appeals determined that claims were left unresolved in the trial court.  Because judgments are final only if the judgment resolves all claims of all parties, and there were no certification of finality pursuant to Ala. R. Civ. P. 54(b), the appeals had to be dismissed as being from non-final judgments.

Circuit Court Lacked Jurisdiction to Rule On Late 60(b)(1) Motion

A father moved under Rule 60(b) to set aside a child support order that had been entered ten months earlier. Though he specified no specific part of Rule 60(b), his motion could be construed as coming only under Rule 60(b)(1). Such motions must be brought within four months of the challenged order. The circuit court’s ruling on the father’s late motion was jurisdictionally void and would not support an appeal. Noll v. Noll, No. 2080736 (Ala. Civ. App. Jan. 29, 2010).

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Trial Court Could Not Enter Permanent Injunction While Appeal Was Pending

A trial court had no jurisdiction to enter a permanent injunction while an appeal from its earlier decision, granting a preliminary injunction, was pending. The permanent injunction was void and would not support an appeal. Searle v. Vinson, Nos. 2080760, 2081155 (Ala. Civ. App. Jan. 29, 2010).

The trial court granted a preliminary injunction in this easement dispute. The defendants appealed that order. While their appeal was pending, the trial court entered a second order making the injunction permanent. The defendants appealed from that second order.  

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Appeal Dismissed Because Judgment Entered in Will Contest Void

The Supreme Court sue sponte dismissed the appeal in Jean v. Jean, [Ms. 1080989] (Ala. Sept. 18, 2009),  because the underlying judgment was void.  The underlying dispute was a will contest originally brought in probate court, which was transferred to the circuit court.  The plaintiff amended the will contest to also bring claims for breach of contract and negligence.  But a will contest originally brought in probate court, even if transferred to circuit court, can only address issues relating to the validity of the will. Slip Op. p. 5.  The court is without jurisdiction to consider other issues.  Slip Op. p. 6.  Because the trial court did not have jurisdiction to enter the judgment, the judgment was void.  A void judgment will not support an appeal, so the appeal was dismissed.